Locking your web site down? "Think relationships."
By Bernard Re, Jr. (this article appeared in The Digital Edge, an NAA (Newspaper Association of America) publication in January 2002 under the title "Remember Relationships")
Are you thinking about making everyone register or subscribe to get in? "Think again", and this time get both inside and outside the online business box. The revenue model for an online operation is not limited to just subscriptions or just banners. The online subscription model is not just about protecting the print. The site is not just about local news. The online business is about the whole value chain of content, readers, advertisers, company personnel, new technology, and legacy systems.
The online business should leverage existing relationships and work to expand them into online relationships as well. It should transition readers, resources and revenue streams leading to an enhancement of the value chain not a recreation.
Part of this value chain, the relationship with our readers, viewers, listeners and advertisers, emanates from a base that we have built up over the years through our printed, cable or radio properties. Why should I ignore those valuable relationships, legacy systems, the knowledge base and profit mechanics when I can use them to build a more sustainable online model? To me it is about transforming the value chain not breaking it.
So what about subscriptions?
Why not build what I call a 'Subscriber Relationship Model' that uses your existing newspaper subscriber relationship, circulation department systems and new online technology to build an integrated print/online subscriber base. A model that enhances the value chain rather than disrupting it further.
Why not overlay the new technology registration based access model with the free access model and your print subscription model? This model builds overall subscription value and is less disruptive to online page views and thus to online advertising rates.
The registration based model I am currently developing uses the existing value chain system to extend the "subscriber relationship" online. The model would organize groups of "protected" story links under an "S-pass" (Subscriber Pass) area inserted per section within the free web site. An example would be to group "protected" "Living" stories on the "Living section front" within the free web site. This means there will be no main index of "protected" stories. In deploying this model, a news organization can be extremely flexible in deciding what stories or features are "protected" without locking down the whole site or whole sections. This model does not adversely impact page views, advertising sales or the open access to information and breaking news. As long as the local news organization does not "protect" too much content this model keeps competitors at bay.
As part of extending the value chain, "protected" stories will be available to existing print subscribers as part of their "subscriber relationship" with the newspaper at no additional charge. The newspaper print subscribers would be authenticated through a registration process managed by software from Clickshare (clickshare.com). Non-subscribers may purchase "protected" stories on a pay per view basis. Increasing the print subscription rate and offering more "protected" content, premium content and user functionality would be part of a long-term strategy to build and transition the value chain online. The online unit would earn a share of a value-added bundled print/online subscription. All of this is managed from within the existing value chain of the circulation department. The model is a mechanism to transition paid print subscribers to paid print/online subscribers.
The "Print/Online Subscriber Relationship" model offers some key advantages.
o Most importantly it works to stabilize and re-establish the subscriber value chain that free access has disrupted. Moving it from disruption, to stabilization to transition to expansion of the print/online subscriber base.
The ability to change the mind-set of online readers from getting all online content for free to getting "protected" content because they have a "subscriber relationship" with the newspaper.
The ability to tell a print subscriber they will get online access to "protected" materials that are not available for free, "Your subscriber pass to print and online content."
Ability to build a "subscriber relationship" base while selling more online advertising driven by page views.
Ability borrow the cable industry model to create "Print/Online Subscription" premium packages, audience content segmentation and multimedia feature tiers.
Ability to layer new technology on legacy circulation systems and relationships rather than investing in stand alone "online only "subscriber systems, personnel and technology that only serve to destabilize the subscriber relationship value chain and add costs to operations.
Ability to build a "value stream and revenue stream" with the print/online subscription bundle and package offers.
The "Print/Online Subscriber Relationship" value chain can built. One that extends, leverages and transitions the existing news subscription business model can be implemented.
So, "Think again. Think relationships. Think value chain."
By Bernard Re, Jr.
November 16, 2001
For more information on using this concept in your
local area contact Bernard Re, Jr, at GlobalHome.